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Tenant Organizing Paves the Way for Housing Justice Victories

TENANT ORGANIZING PAVES THE WAY FOR HOUSING JUSTICE VICTORIES

Our collective activism and philanthropic support has powered another major victory! Thanks in large part to a growing housing justice movement across our state, the Board of Supervisors recently approved a motion for permanent rent stabilization and eviction defense funding in Unincorporated L.A. County, while the state passed a historic anti-rent-gouging bill.

This is the largest expansion of rent stabilization in almost forty years.

 More than 400,000 tenants who live in unincorporated L.A. will now enjoy:

·         Regulated rents on apartments and multi-family units built before 1995
·         Fair eviction protections
·         A diverse and representative rent board
·         An online rent registry to monitor rents throughout the county, and
·         Adequate relocation funding if tenants are evicted through no fault of their own

We are proud that Liberty Hill’s grantmaking, activist training, and alliance-building fueled the organizing that made this victory a reality. We are also proud to support the many organizations who have organized for these campaigns.

One vital organizer is Carolina Rodriguez, who was born and raised in East LA. Despite multiple attempts by her landlord to evict her and her family after increasing their rent more than $500, Carolina remains in her home in East L.A. today.

“They told me I couldn’t fight back. But then, I got help from Union de Vecinos, LATU [Los Angeles Tenants Union], and LACCLA [Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action]. I found out that I wasn’t alone. That this was happening all around. Others told me that without rent control I had no legal protections, but these organizations encouraged me to fight and to change the law. The support I got gave me the strength to organize my building and fight back.”

Carolina spoke on the morning of September 10 during a press conference hosted by Supervisor Kuehl, where she told her story to dozens of media outlets and supporters crowded on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. It was the same place where, two and half years earlier, she helped organize a march with fellow members of LACCLA, LATU, and Union de Vecinos to demand rent control for all of unincorporated Los Angeles.

“Without renter protections my landlord could continue to drive me into court and destroy my life and my family’s life. I knew my community needed rent control for stability…I wasn’t fighting for myself anymore, I was fighting on behalf of my entire community. I talked to everyone I could about rent control. On May 11, 2017 we marched to the Board of Supervisors to demand renters in these areas get protections.” 
 
It was after that march in May of 2017 that Sup. Hilda Solis and Sup. Sheila Kuehl formed the Tenant Protection Working Group, which created recommendations for a permanent rent control ordinance in unincorporated LA. At each working group meeting tenants, organizers, and lawyers from across the county began to show up to share public comment. With support and coordination from the Liberty Hill Foundation, they then formed a coalition named Unincorporated Tenants United.

Coalition Members Include:

Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action (LACCLA)
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE)
LA VOICE
Public Counsel
Eastside LEADS
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ)
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project (AEMP)
Glendale Tenants Union (GTU)
Housing Long Beach
Inner City Struggle (ICS)
Inquilinos Unidos
Long Beach ICO
LA Tenants Union (LATU)
Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU)
Uplift Inglewood
HEART-LA
Union de Vecinos

Over the next year and a half, Unincorporated Tenants United led several delegation visits to the Supervisors. Tenants from member-based organizations knocked on more than 15,000 doors and talked with over 3,000 residents of unincorporated L.A. through canvassing and know-your-rights workshops. Public Counsel and Eastside LEADS, along with the UCLA School of Law and Liberty Hill, published Priced Out, Pushed Out, Locked Out: How Permanent Tenant Protections Can Help Communities Prevent Homelessness and Resist Displacement in LA County. The coalition mobilized supporters for four Board of Supervisor meetings, sending hundreds of emails and turning out 80-160 people each time to give public comment.

After hearing hours of public comment on September 10, the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported drafting a permanent rent control ordinance for unincorporated L.A. Once the cheering died down, Supervisor Kuehl told the crowd, “Never doubt the power of sharing your story.”
 
THERE’S MORE WORK TO BE DONE
The day after unincorporated L.A. won permanent rent control, AB 1482 passed through the state Assembly. It now awaits signature from Governor Newsom, [JW3] [JO4] and once signed it will grant anti-rent gouging protections to millions of tenants across the state. Once both bills take effect in January, we will have had the largest expansion of tenant protections in recent history.

While the state anti-rent gouging law will prevent the most egregious rent increases and eviction practices, it is not rent control. Local ordinances that are stronger than the state law will take precedence. That means winning strong local ordinances that contain a full suite of tenant protections, like adequate relocation and strong eviction protection regulations, will be even more important in the coming months.
 
Liberty Hill is proud to stand in solidarity with the many organizations who have and will continue to fight for affordable, safe, and healthy housing for all.